Hey y’all! So I just got home the other day and have finally unpacked everything so now I’m chilling and relaxing for a bit until the semester starts up again. But in the meantime I want to tell everyone about my last few days in Belize! I’ll pick up right where I left off in my last post.
After our day at the baboon sanctuary we went back to the zoo for one last big visit. That day we got to implement enrichment projects that we had been preparing for most of this program. The term enrichment when being used in the context of animals in captivity means to provide an animal with unique stimulus that helps reflect their natural habits and stimulate is physically and physiologically. I paired up with my friend Rebecca for our project and we chose to work with the kinkajous at the zoo. Kinkajous are a relatively small arboreal species that is native to Central America and South America, since they have prehensile tails and little grabby hands many people think they’re a primate but they’re actually more closely related to raccoons. Since they live in trees and often forage for food by picking things from the bark with their fingers and long tongue, we decided to try and make a structure that could help reflect that. So our project was a piece of bamboo that we drilled holes into and hid food inside the holes so the kinkajou could climb it and search for food and pick it out like it would in the wild. When we stuck our project in the enclosure it was still daytime and because the kinkajou is nocturnal we didn’t get to see if the project worked out. I like the think it worked and the kinkajous used it but even if it didn’t that’s alright because when you work with animals you have to have some trial and error to find out what works best. As the entire CELA group we all picked different animals and got to try out our projects all across the zoo so it was a great experience for us as well as the animals!
During the day at the zoo when we were finished up with our enrichment projects we were in the medical area in the back of the zoo performing more necropsies. Necropsy is just another name for an autopsy and we got the opportunity to do these to try and find out the cause of death for those animals as well as get a try as using surgical instruments and getting to learn that animal’s anatomy in a hands on way. We were actually donated a lot of animals that had passed away at local sanctuaries as well as some that were found dead on the road or in the wild. And just as a disclaimer when it comes to the animals dying in the sanctuaries it isn’t because they were in bad care it’s because they’re often rescued in bad shape from being captured or injured or even surrendered by someone who shouldn’t have owned them. So most animals in sanctuaries are well taken care of, rehabilitated and released but it’s still not uncommon to see animals pass away. But in order to make the most of sad circumstances like those they are used for educational reasons so one day we can take that knowledge to help other animals.
So we got the opportunity to perform necropsies on some really cool animals like a pelican, a barn owl, an agouti, a laughing falcon, a porcupine, a margay and even a howler monkey! It was a lot of really great experience for all of us in getting to apply our knowledge.
The next day was our last real day of work in Belize. We each had to create a presentation about something that interested you involving wildlife in Belize, so we all presented these that day. My presentation was about the territorial dispute between Belize and Guatemala. I talked about this because for a long time Guatemala has been trying to claim they own land that covers a large portion of Belize but have been unsuccessful in getting it. However in recent years some Guatemalans have resorted to crossing Belizean borders and doing slash and burn agriculture and starting illegal plantations and livestock ranches and taking resources. As you could see by all the other things I’ve talked about in my blog so far, Belize has a lot of conservation efforts going on in the country and have been doing their best to preserve their wildlife. So it’s very important for these issues to be resolved in order for Belize to keep up its conservation efforts. It is also a very current event because there is a referendum happening in April of this year to bring this issue to the International Court of Justice to settle this land dispute once and for all. It was really interesting to hear all the other presentations because they were all about issues we cared about so they were well done and were all relevant to our trip. We had all sorts of presentations like “How leaf cutter ant societies work” all the way to “How rising water levels threaten Belize” so it was great to hear about all of these topics.
After we finished our presentations we got to take a look at the pictures from the camera traps that we set up about a week back when we did a big all day hike. It was really great to see our efforts had some effect in learning more about the local wildlife. We were all really excited to check out the cameras to see what we caught. We found pictures of bats, an opossum, great currassows, coatimundis, grey foxes, red brocket deer and then the big moment was when we got a picture of a JAGUAR! We were all really excited for that and the timestamp shows it at 11:26 pm on New Years Eve so it must have been heading to a New Years party.
After this though we were pretty much done with the program which was pretty sad. But we got that night to all hang out together. So we played cards all and hung out most of the day and as it got later we went to a local bar and sang some karaoke. It was an amazing program and I got to spend it some really amazing and fun people. Luckily a few came from Rutgers right here so I know I’ll see them again and then as a group we’re keeping in touch and we may just plan to get together again sometime soon. The next day we said our sad goodbyes to each other and the beautiful country of Belize. Luckily I did have some good company on the plane ride back.
I’m sad the trip is over but it does feel good to be home. I’m not to fond of heat so the cold feels good again and I do love getting to bundle up and cuddle with my dog. And it’s nice to be back home with my family and friends. I wouldn’t trade this trip for the world though, I learned so much and it was such an amazing time! But peace out for now! I’ll be checking back on this blog one more time in a week or so to tell you all a bit more about the trip.